By BosNewsLife Africa Service
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– Scores of Christian families in Nigeria have marked the country’s 53 years of independence with little to celebrate as they mourned those who died in a new wave of Islamic attacks that killed more than 120 people in recent days.
Among those killed was Yohanna Agom, a priest at Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Nigeria’s northeastern Yobe state and two of his sons, Christians said.
Witnesses reported that suspected fighters of the militant group Boko Haram, or ‘Western education is a sin’, then set their home and Church building ablaze.
In the neighboring northeastern state of Borno, Boko Haram militants reportedly raided the town of Gamboru twice. The first attack late Wednesday, September 25, killed six people, the second on Thursday, September 26, killed 21, according to human rights activists.
The violence soon spread to the central state of Kaduna, where Islamic gunmen reportedly moved into the town of Zangang in the early-morning hours on Saturday, September 28,burning homes and killing as many as 15 Christians.
The nearby Evangelical Church Winning All congregation identified the victims as Michael Aboi, Gideon Adamu, Christopher Bakwap, Julius Barnabas, Andrew Bikai, Joshua Bikau, Benjamen Ganda, Sheying Immanuel, Garba Kushuwah, Gaje Lufuwai, Ladi Madugu, Martha Musa, Adam Yakubu, Kefas Yusfu and Dauda Yusu.
Soon after, dozens of gunmen stormed the student quarters of the Agricultural College campus in Gujba, Yobe state, killing at least 65 people many of them Muslims, authorities said.
Survivors said gunmen, some of whom were dressed in military fatigues, killed several students in their beds, while others were forced outside, divided, and then executed group by group.
Those attempting to flee Sunday’s carnage were reportedly shot and several classrooms were set ablaze, Christians said.
Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, the archbishop of Jos and president of the Bishops Conference of Nigeria, said in published remarks that “the aim of Boko Haram was to attack Christians in order to destabilize the community.”
Yet, “now the ferocity of the members of this movement has no limits to the point of slaughtering even those who should be their fellow Muslims,” he added.
While his remarks were published, suspected militants reportedly attacked travelers on a main road on Monday, September 30, beheading 10 and killing another four.
Not included in the latest death count was a separate attack last week, in which suspected extremists killed 143 civilians, three police officers and two soldiers in an attack on a military outpost — one of the highest tolls from a single assault, observers said.
Analysts have warned that the Islamic uprising poses the greatest security threat in years to the cohesion of Africa’s most populous nation and biggest oil producer, a former British colony of more than 160 million people.
President Goodluck Jonathan has acknowledged that is an uphill nation to unite a nation with more than 250 tribes almost equally divided between a heavily Muslim north and mainly Christian south.
“I admit that these may not be the best of times for our nation,” Jonathan said in an address broadcast to the nation. “Our people are divided in many ways — ethnically, religiously, politically, and materially. I cannot hide from this reality.”
He urged a “national dialog” to heal rifts and urged unity to avoid the fate of Syria where more than 100,000 people have died in a civil war. Nigeria suffered a civil conflict in the late 1960s that killed up to a million people.
Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of the Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) advocacy group, told BosNewsLife that Boko Haram has been able to “circumvent the state of emergency by focusing on soft targets in remote rural areas, regardless of the religious background of victims.”
He said CSW investigators have urged the Nigerian military to boost security arrangements “to counter this brutal new reality.”
Such a “re-calibration”, he Thomas explained, “would also assist in addressing attacks such as those that have occurred in Kaura LGA area in Kaduna State, and that continue to occur in remote areas of Plateau State.”
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since 2004).
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